Clermont Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to deny a businessman’s request to deannex from the North Hall town.
The council’s vote was taken after little discussion among members and strong opposition to the request from most of the audience.
In his application, Chris Nonnemaker was seeking to withdraw his 6-acre tract featuring a Papa’s Pizza To-Go restaurant off U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway from the town into unincorporated Hall County.
Plans called for a couple, Bruce and Kim Johnson, to open a beach-themed restaurant at the site that would serve beer and alcohol. Clermont bans such sales, which was was reaffirmed last year by a Town Council vote.
“We don’t have to drive to Gainesville to get a decent meal,” Nonnemaker told the council in pitching his request. “The food’s going to be superb, I guarantee it. The two chefs are out of this world, and it’s a good concept for the area.
“All I’m asking ... is to remove 6 acres from the city to allow me ... to do what I need to do to make a living.”
Nonnemaker had several backers at the hearing, including Michelle Kelly, who said, “I think it would be a travesty not to allow him to open this restaurant. He’s not looking to take away (from the community). He’s looking to add to it.”
Bruce Johnson, a North Hall resident who ran Route 75 Roadhouse in Helen, said his decision to close the restaurant was based on economics.
“It was not worth the money (Helen) wanted me to pay, so we decided to pull the plug and look for a better venue,” he said.
The Clermont location would feature “a lot better volume than what we had in Helen,” Johnson said.
But residents at the meeting weren’t sold on the idea.
“Clermont needs to stand and stay like it is. I hope we’re not just here for a meal,” said Warren Weaver, a Clermont resident.
He said Brad Rounds, commander of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office’s north precinct, is looking to hold a community meeting “so we can see what’s going on in and around Clermont” and Rounds has said it would be eye-opening.
“There’s a lot of problems in Clermont, a lot of trouble. Let’s not add to it,” Weaver said.
In remarks to the council, but addressing Nonnemaker, resident Danny Head was more direct.
“Go start a bar in Alpharetta — they love it down there,” he said. “We don’t want that kind of business in our community.”
The meeting got tense and contentious at times, with town attorney David Syfan stepping in at one point and telling parties, “We’re not going to get into an argument.”
And when a resident turned on Syfan, asking him “Are you in a big hurry?,” Mayor James Nix interrupted, saying,
“Let’s settle down … this is the second time we’ve gone through this and I think we’ve beaten (the issue) to death.”
Except for the result, Tuesday’s vote was a deja vu moment for the council.
The council approved deannexation in a March meeting, but then, as it was poised for a final vote April 7, Nonnemaker withdrew his application. He balked when Councilwoman Kristi Crumpton, who sided with him in the first vote, was absent for the final vote.
The town allowed Nonnemaker to immediately refile his request — which he did in April — and get an immediate second consideration of the issue.
After the council’s vote Tuesday night, Crumpton had some final words on the matter, encouraging residents to patronize the town’s businesses
“I’d like to see Clermont say, ‘If you’re going to do business in our town, we’re going to support you,’” she said.
“Best words of the night,” Nonnemaker said.